Why do cats bring you dead animals?

To most of our cat owner patients, the only good mouse is a dead mouse. Well, that may be true but what do you do about a dead mouse or other dead animal that your cat brings home? To many, it’s really gross that a domestic cat brings them a dead animal. Just this week, our female cat has brought home mouse parts, bird wings, and a few moles. The good news is that they were all dead or were dead animal parts. This is good news because if they were live or partially alive and then accidentally released behind our couch, that would be a real problem.

Cat hunting a mouse
Is your cat hunting and bringing you their catch?

Why do cats bring you dead animals? Well, first, because he or she is a cat and that is what cats do. Cats are predators that hunt. In this article you are going to learn why your cat brings mice (or other dead animals) home and how to make them stop doing it.

Why do cats bring dead animals home?

Let’s start with the reasons why cats bring their prey home. There’s the key word, “prey“. The fact of the matter is, the reason your cat brings you dead animals is likely for the same reason that you bring groceries home.

To consume their prey in peace

Cats are among the best hunters in the animal world. Your cat’s instinct is to hunt for their food. There are many factors that contribute to their success in hunting their prey. One of them is silence. Your cat hunts their prey and leaves with few noticing them. If mice could see a cat consuming their buddies they would soon become more cautious or even move somewhere safer. Also, cat’s hunt prey that is small enough to carry home. This is where the environment is safe and your cat doesn’t have to to defend itself from competing predators and scavengers.

To teach kittens how to hunt

Even though cats are pretty much born deadly hunters, they still need to practice. Your cat’s hunting instinct kicks in and they go on the hunt. When a female cat begins to teach her young, she brings home a dead rodent and eats it in front of her kittens. This lets the kittens get familiar with how to hunt and consume their prey. Later on, the mother cat might bring home injured prey to give her kitten as a way to hone their hunting skill. Skills like stalking and pouncing. Many cat behaviorists say that this instinct is present even in cats who do not have a kitten. Some even theorize that cats bring prey to for their owners to practice giving the dead prey to their kittens. While this is debatable, it is a logical explanation.

To share food with other cats or people

In large cat communities, not all of the cats are as good at hunting as others. Some catch more than they need and are willing to share. This behavior is more common in female cats. If you found a dead mouse on your porch early this morning, it’s likely that your cat thought you might want to eat it. Your cat does not understand the concept of a trash can. If you scoop the dead mouse up and the cat sees that it’s gone, they will assume that someone ate it. So, why not bring more?

To relieve stress

If your cat brings a live mouse home, they may be trying to teach you how to chase it. They also may be using it as a stress relief mechanism. That is because satisfying their prey drive is quite dangerous for a cat. After the concentration and tension of the hunt, a little stress can be released by playing with the mouse. So, the prey is brought home and a “play” session can begin. Since the mouse is in a condition that could be described as shock, it won’t easily get away. But sometimes they do.

What do you do when your cat brings you a dead animal?

Now that you know that bringing home animals is a natural predatory instinct for cats. It’s instinctive that cats hunt. But it is not a welcome treat for us at pet owners. Who wants dead bird parts all over their porch? So, can you do something about it? Yes!

How do I stop my cat from bringing home dead animals

Do not overfeed your cat

First, please understand this won’t stop your cat from hunting. It is part of the solution however. In a study of cats at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, who were allowed to hunt mice, the results showed that fullness reduced the amount of animals were killed. Feed your cat an appropriate amount of food as a start. Add the below techniques to further prevent your cat from bringing dinner home.

“British researchers found that, compared to the control group, cats that ate a high-meat, no-grain diet over the course of 12 weeks reduced the number of animals they killed and brought into the house by 36 per cent…”

University of Exeter, UK

Put a bell on your cat’s collar

Putting a collar with a bell on your cat will reduce the success your feline will have when they hunt. As successful hunters as cats are, they can’t get far without stealthy silence. The tinkling sound of a bell will alert their potential prey. If your cat is unsuccessful to hunt prey, they won’t bring their catch home.

What to watch for with cat collars

  1. Not all cat collars are safe. Choose one that is designed to tear open (breakaway feature) if or when it gets stuck in bushes or against a tree branch. This is to prevent the collar from strangling your feline. You may lose the collar, but you won’t lose your cat.
  1. The collar must fit perfectly. If it’s too tight, your cat will feel discomfort or even pain. If it’s too loose, the chance of it getting stuck increases dramatically. Make sure you can easily slip a finger or two behind it but not more. After you fit it to your kitty, don’t forget to check every now and again that it hasn’t become too tight or too loose.
  2. Train your cat to accept the collar. Some cats don’t mind wearing a collar. But some may act aggressively towards wearing one. If you managed to put a collar on but your cat tries to get it off don’t leave them alone struggling with it. Actively focus your cat’s attention towards food, a toy, or petting. Do not leave the collar on for long. If you remove the collar before your cat displays their unhappiness, you can repeat putting it on for a short time. Do this several times a day. By gradually increasing the time the collar is on, you’ll eventually be able to leave the collar on all the time.
  3. Add more play to your cat’s schedule. Giving your cat the ability to hunt but never succeed is likely to significantly increase your cat’s stress levels. They will get frustrated. To counteract this, let your cat become a successful hunter indoors when playing with you. Try to use a toy on a string and try to reproduce the natural movements of a mouse while letting your cat hunt it. Let them stalk it, pounce on it, and be sure to eventually let them catch it. This will likely fill your cat’s need for this type of mental and physical stimulation. Learn more about playing with your cat here.

When everything else fails, why not consider keeping your cat indoors? There are many benefits to having an indoor cat. If you are ready to try it, here are our tips to turn your former outdoor cat into an indoor one with ease and by causing as little stress to both of you as possible. Your cat or kitten will be happier. And a happy pet is what we all want.

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